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Film / The Loves of Hercules

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A 1960 Italian Sword and Sandal film directed by Carlo Ludovico Bragaglia, one of four films to star Hollywood power couple Jayne Mansfield and Mickey Hargitay.

While Hercules is away, his people and the woman he loves are killed by the king of Ecalia. Hercules goes to Ecalia to avenge his dead. When he arrives in Ecalia he finds that the king is dead and Queen Deianera reigns. He saves her and falls for her, but Deianera has been promised to a man named Achelous. His efforts then get entangled with a conspiracy led by Licos, the head of Deianera's armies, along with encounters with the Amazons, the Hydra and other monsters...

The film was made during a period where Jayne Mansfield's numerous tabloid scandals had made her persona non grata in Hollywood, and she resorted to doing several quick and cheap movies in Italy until it blew over. It was featured in Season 11 of Mystery Science Theater 3000; for that episode go here.

Provides examples of:

  • Adaptational Wimp:
    • Despite being played by a Mr. Universe winner, Hercules really is not that impressive here, often struggling heavily in his various feats of strength.
    • The hydra here dies after Herc cuts off just one of its heads. In spite of the fact that the mythological hydra's entire shtick was that you couldn't kill it by cutting off its head.
  • All Amazons Want Hercules: Hippolyta wants a piece of Hercules so badly she was willing to change her appearance to look like Deianera, despite that she apparently believes that having to disguise herself rather than be loved for her own charms is the highest price any woman could be asked to pay. But apparently "Hercules is worth it."
  • And Now You Must Marry Me: Licos tries to pull this on Deianera after all of his other evil plans don't end so well.
  • Bigfoot, Sasquatch, and Yeti: Bafflingly, the movie climaxes with Hercules fighting one.
  • Black Widow: The Amazon Queen Hippolyta takes on male lovers, then when she grows bored with them, transforms them into trees. She has a whole grove of unfortunate exes, dubbed the Forest of Death.
  • Clear My Name: Hercules returns to Ecalia when he learns that he's being accused of Achelous' murder. He tells Deianera and Licos that he will fetch back Philoctetes, the only other person who was present when he fought Achelous, to clear up the matter. He never actually does, of course, but by the time he gets back to Ecalia Licos is running the place into the ground and nobody cares about Achelous, least of all Deianera.
  • Complexity Addiction:
    • Licos. First he tries to get Hercules to kill the queen in a trial by ordeal. Then he launches various schemes to dispose of the queen's fiance and disgrace Hercules so he can marry the queen himself. When the queen realizes his treachery, he gives up on scheming and just uses the fact that the guards are more loyal to him than the queen to launch a palace coup. Given how easily that worked, he probably should have started there and not bothered involving Hercules at all. (Licos may have been sharp enough to foresee the whole Dystopia Is Hard thing ahead of time, and sought to use Hercules as a sort of Hate Sink (since he was already involved, via his wife's murder) to make himself appear more appealing to the citizenry. Of course, Herc refused to play along, and once Licos's plan was blathered out in front of a servant who promptly informed Deianera, a military coup was probably his only viable option.)
    • Hippolyta, the Queen of the Amazons, disposes of each of her flings, as you'd expect. Rather than just having them killed though, she has them magically turned into dead trees for some reason.
  • Damsel in Distress: Deianera is pretty much incapable of taking care of herself, constantly needing rescue and at least once relying on blind luck in Hercules not killing her during her trial by ordeal. By the end of the film, Licos is dragging her off just because he can, and even a sasquatch wants her. While the script wasn't great about its female characters, a major contributor to Deianera's lack of being able to physically defend herself likely stemmed from the fact Jayne Mansfield was pregnant during filming and couldn't perform anything too physically demanding (this is also likely why the scene with Hippolyta being killed by a tree looks like he just gently massages her to death.)
  • Diabolus ex Nihilo: Licos is set up as the main villain throughout most of the movie: he personally kills Hercules' wife and the king of Ecalia, and afterwards schemes to take over the kingdom from Deianera. But rather than face off against the protagonist, he gets killed by a random sasquatch while hiding in a cave from Hercules. The monster - Alcione, set up by a brief scene early in the film in which he's mentioned as a scourge of the countryside, but not otherwise seen or in any way important to the plot - winds up as Herc's final opponent.
  • Disposable FiancĂ©: Deianera's fiance Achelous is in the movie for all of two minutes before he's Killed Offscreen as part of Licos' ongoing scheme to seize the throne of Ecalia. Deianera herself doesn't seem to care about Achelous all that much, since she's not exactly discouraging Hercules' attentions before he shows up and is agonizing over having to turn Herc down one scene later, never mind that she's known the guy for about a day.
  • Disposable Woman: Hercules is going after another woman before his wife's body is even cold.
  • Dystopia Is Hard: Licos manages to drive the people of Ecalia into either fleeing the country or open rebellion within days of taking over.
  • The Dog Bites Back: Hippolyta meets her end when one of her former lovers captures her in his branch-arms and crushes her to death.
  • Everyone Can See It: The budding relationship between Hercules and Deianera is common knowledge within days. Hippolyta's scheme to bag Hercules is even dependent on it, despite the fact that given the time period the movie takes place over, she probably should have only just learned that Hercules was a widower.
  • Gambit Pileup: Several villains who have nothing to do with each other all have the misfortune of running afoul of the world's strongest man.
  • Knife-Throwing Act: Deianera's trial by ordeal consists of tying her to a wall and seeing if Hercules can cut her free using some throwing axes without injuring her.
  • Men Are Better Than Women: The villains frequently tell Deianera that as a woman, she is unfit to govern and only useful for being married off to a man who will inherently be better suited to the job. The movie doesn't exactly disprove this either, as her swiftly-murdered fiance was marrying her to be king, and her gender the sole reason why her own soldiers turn on her (thus requiring Hercules to save her.) She even agrees with this assessment of her gender in acquiescing to the need to get married so a man can help steady her rule.
  • Ms. Fanservice: Jayne Mansfield as Deianira/Hippolyta, naturally. She spends the movie in a series of low-cut, formfitting gowns and dresses that emphasize her heaving bosom and shapely legs.
  • Our Hydras Are Different: The crew seems to have gotten their multi-headed monsters from Greek mythology mixed up. Here, the Hydra guards the Underworld, even though that's supposed to be Cerberus's job. It is also stopped once Hercules cuts off its middle head, instead of growing more in its place.
  • Roaring Rampage of Revenge: Hercules goes to Ecalia fully intending to slay King Eurysteus and destroy Ecalia in revenge for Megara's murder. Then he meets Deianera and forgets the whole thing.
  • Sadly Mythtaken:
    • Depending on which version of the Hercules myth you go with, his wife Megara should have either been killed by Hercules himself during a bout of a Hera-caused madness (leading to the famous twelve labors to atone for her death and the death of their children) or given to Iolaus after he left Thebes. Megara being killed as part of a mortal political plot is wholly an invention of the film.
    • There's a random Bigfoot.
      Jonah Heston: I must have fallen asleep in Greek Mythology the day they talked about Sasquatch.
    • They make the standard mistake of giving Hercules his Roman name and all the other mythological figures the Greek ones. Amusingly, they seem to have realized this part way through; after a few scenes characters start referring to Jupiter instead of Zeus.
    • In the myths, Hercules did indeed defeat Achelous in a wrestling match over Deianeira, but the movie presents Achelous as a normal man who stands no chance against Hercules, whereas the mythical Achelous was a river god who took the form of a snake and a bull to try and win the fight, though he still lost.
  • Trial by Ordeal: Queen Deianera is subjected to the Trial of Themis: she's tied to a wall, and a champion must cut her free with throwing axes, without injuring her. Licos, the treacherous general who set up the trial, fully expects Deianera to die, but Hercules volunteers to be the axe-thrower and successfully frees her.